Empowering women in maritime: Navigating new horizon

By Dr. Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen, senior lecturer at Faculty of Maritime Studies, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, and Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Malaysia committee member.

The maritime industry is vital for global trade and transportation, and it is important to develop inclusive talent in this sector.  Currently, women are making significant contributions to different sectors of the maritime industry worldwide. Indeed, there has been a notable rise in the number of women working as seafarers, including some in leadership roles on ships.

Historically, women have been barred from joining the maritime industry due to the inherent challenges of juggling work and family responsibilities, thus making it a traditionally male-dominated field. The maritime industry previously faced a gender disparity, but there is now a recognition for women, whether on shore, at sea, in the public sector, or in the private sector.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) plays a key role in advancing equal opportunities for women. In fact, in recent years, the IMO has been enacting policies and initiatives to promote increased recruitment and employment of women.

As a specialized United Nations agency, IMO oversees nearly all facets of global shipping regulations. A program named “Women in Maritime” to advance gender equality has successfully provides women with a platform to discuss their experiences and obstacles, while encouraging the industry to establish a more diverse and inclusive work environment. The dedication to encourage women’s participation is reflected in Resolution 14 of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

Empowering women is crucial for promoting gender equality. By transcending gender stereotypes and traditional barriers, women are expected to making waves. Equal representation of women in senior, technical, and professional positions is, of course, highly desirable. 

Basically, an inclusive work environment is necessary to empower women. The key focus is to eliminate gender biases that prevent women from advancing in their careers and to promote fairness in the workplace. Organizations are obligated to implement strategies that support gender diversity. This encompasses education and training programs, and implementing and enforcing strong policies to promote gender equality, inclusivity, and sustainability, 

Collaboration is also critical, for example, the signing of the IMO-Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) Memorandum of Understanding in 2020 aimed at fostering greater diversity and inclusion through enhanced cooperation activities to empower women in the maritime industry.

Collaboration. Photo credit: iStock/ maroke

WISTA is a non-profit organization that offers a networking opportunity for professionals involved in shipping, trading, and related maritime sectors. WISTA’s membership is limited to women, and the organization holds networking events and seminars on a regular basis to offer members with advantages to nurture both local and global business connections, allowing them to advance their professions, collaborate, benefit professional knowledge and expertise, share innovative ideas, and collaborate across borders.

The maritime industry should acknowledge that women are not fundamentally different from men or inherently incapable. Hence, it is important to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women who reside in a variety of different cultures, backgrounds, and professions of life. Women already possess a high level of strength; the challenge lies in altering the way in which the world views that strength. Women in the maritime industry are not there to compete with men, but rather to provide a different perspective that will benefit the industry.

The maritime industry is projected to make significant progress in the coming decade through elevating the visibility of female leaders who are taking bold steps to navigate new horizons and achieve breakthrough career success. 

Top photo credit: iStock/ maruco

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

subscribe maritime fairtrade

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more